How to Care for Clothes: The Poorly Dressed Grownup’s Guide

Multi-colored wardrobe showcase, closeup

Spring is here, and it’s time to go shopping.

After I shed my winter weight, I’m hitting the outlet and shopping malls.

At 5′ 9.5″ tall, finding clothes that fit me well is tough. Plus, my clothes, particularly pants, are pricier than those designed for shorter women.

Given the challenges – financial and emotional – many of us face when shopping for clothes, you’d think we’d take better care of them.

I’m the girl who’ll wear a holey shirt. Or throw on a pair of paint stained jeans. Or step out in a camisole that has a grease spot on it.

I’ll be the first to admit that my behavior is unacceptable for any self respecting adult. And it needs to stop today.

Knowing how to properly maintain our wardrobe is similar to knowing what to do with our money after we’ve earned it.

There’s only one problem. We don’t know how!

That said, ignorance is no excuse for dressing like a homeless person. So, I decided to educate myself on how to care for clothes.

This blog post is as much for the person who’s never learned basic home economics as it is for me.

Since the biggest mishaps happen around the laundering of clothes, that’s where we’re going to focus our energy.


  • Try to wash everything in cold water. You’ll save money on your electric bill and extend the life and brilliance of your clothes.
  • Lighten up on the laundry detergent, will ya? Using too much will leave a film on your clothes. Don’t blindly fill the cap to the brim without reading the directions on the bottle/box. Even then, you still may be able to cut back on laundry detergent.
  • Stop over washing your clothes. You don’t need to wash them after every use. However, you should let clothes air out before putting them away. Please note: Not Dirty ≠ Clean. So, you still want to separate the clothes you’ve worn from your clean clothes.
  • Don’t overload your washing machine. Fail to heed this advice, and you’ll lose twice: Once when there’s excessive wear on your clothes and again when you pull excessively worn, dirty clothes out of your washer.
  • Make a habit of checking pockets before washing. You’ll find all kinds of stuff in there that can screw up your load: lip balm, tissue, money. Wait. Nope. Money is cool.
  • Wash perspiration stains from fabrics as soon as possible after wearing. The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood it’ll permanently discolor the item.
  • Inspect clothing and pretreat stains before washing. If you discover a stain after a wash, don’t dry the item, and don’t iron it. Treat the stain while it’s still wet.
  • Use the Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover pen for mishaps that happen away from home. It’s effective and easily fits in your purse.
  • Change out of your “good” clothes when you get home from work. (Yeah, this is the same advice your mother gave you when you arrived home from school.) If you’re going to cook, slip on something you don’t mind ruining. Or, if you have one, where an apron.


  • If you hang dry clothes outside, turn them inside out to keep colors from fading.
  • If you’re one of those people who ignores the “dry clean only” warning on garment tags, you should hand wash or machine wash these items on the “delicate/gentle” setting. Remember to use a mild soap and let air dry.
  • Don’t use extra high heat to dry everything. Not only can the excess heat damage fabric, but it may also lead to shrinkage.
  • Make sure clothes are completely dry before storing them in your closet or dresser drawer. Damp clothes can mildew and cause your other clothes to smell.
  • Don’t use fabric softener on moisture wicking clothes, e.g., exercise apparel. It’ll cause the material to lose it’s “wicking” ability.
  • Use the appropriate cycle on your washer and dryer.

Raise your hand if you don’t know what the cycles on your washer mean. *Throws hand in air*

To expand the useful life of your wardrobe, you should probably know what the different settings are for.

Washer/Dryer Settings

Regular: Use for moderately to heavily soiled cottons and linens.

Delicate: Use on delicate fabrics such as see through, e.g., lacy or sheer garments, or any other material that won’t hold up to vigorous washing. On this cycle, clothes are agitated and spun more slowly to imitate hand washing.

Permanent Press: As the name sort of suggests, this setting reduces the number of wrinkles in your clothing.

Air Fluff: Applies to dryer only. No heat is generated on this setting. Great for airing out clothes that are worn, but not yet ready for another wash. Forget about actually drying anything on this setting.

So there you have it – a few simple tips on how to care for your clothes.

What other helpful tips and tricks have you learned about caring for laundry?

About the Author

Shawanda Greene is a free thinking, frugal gal whose only vices are boxed wine, lip balm and money grubbing. You can find more of Shawanda's musings at You Have More Than You Think – a productivity focused guide to maximizing the money you have to obtain more of what you want.